Broadside Hacks: Songs Without Authors Vol 1 review – contemporary artists tinker with tradition

(Broadside Hacks Recordings)
The folk project led by Sorry’s Campbell Baum offers new takes on anonymously composed tunes, with varying success

Last month, the drummer of Fontaines DC released an Irish folk anthology, and now the bassist from London indie band Sorry unleashes his second anthology in four months of (primarily) non-folk artists getting into traditional music. Broadside Hacks was initially meant to be a club night, inspired by an unruly, noisy gig by Irish artist Junior Brother (also on this LP) that Campbell Baum saw in Dublin just before the pandemic. It became an ongoing project with a great house band, Maudlin, led by Baum, and other artists circling its core. Their first release in June was of unaccompanied songs recorded on phones; the second covers songs without known authors, the point being, Baum says, that “the artists could feel free to tinker with them”.

Broadside Hacks: Songs Without Authors Vol 1
Broadside Hacks: Songs Without Authors Vol 1 Photograph: Publicity image

Some interpretations smother the songs in fussy layers. Thyrsis’s take on Brigg Fair slumps under cod-operatic vocal ornamentations, while Katy J Pearson gives Willie of Winsbury an initially cloying country-rock twist (it gets more charming by its final gentle swaggers). Better is Shovel Dance Collective’s earthy, torrid Georgie, performed unaccompanied, before a trombone at the end explodes like a death knell, or Aga Ujma’s Polish song, Uwoz Mamo (Tell Me, Mother), all stark harp-playing and sense-blasting harmonies. Pixx and Maudlin’s Barbara Allen is also refreshingly sweet without being saccharine – a rowdy banjo helps.

Some old-timers also join in. Yorkston/Thorne/Khan’s The Jealous Woman (A’ Bhean Ladach) keeps that band’s standards as high as their soaring sarangi lines, while Rosa Zajac teams up with Lankum’s Daragh Lynch for a stunning The Burning of Auchindoun (complete with eerie synthesised flute). Brigid Mae Power’s The True Lover’s Farewell is hauntingly brilliant at the end, like she’s singing it down a dark corridor.

Also out this month

If Ed Sheeran-flavoured stadium folk’s your thing, try Sam Kelly & the Lost Boys’ The Wishing Tree (Pure Records). The playing throughout is impressive, but the execution is mawkish and heavy-handed.

Jinnwoo, vocalist in the brilliant folk groups Bird in the Belly and Green Ribbons, releases an intriguing debut, dreamcreatures (Square Leg). It recasts his unusual, shivery vocals into twisted chamber-pop settings, without losing its compassionate folk heart.

Marisa Anderson and William Tyler’s Lost Futures (Thrill Jockey) promises “dense biomes of transportive sound” and to twist folk and blues into new shapes. Their reverb-slathered guitar-playing is often very beautiful, although not particularly progressive.

Contributor

Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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